The Kansas Board of Regents on Nov. 5 will present its position on higher education restructuring to the Governor's Task Force on Higher Education Structure for Excellence.
Decrying the media's labeling of higher education coordination efforts as a done deal, members of the Board of Regents and leaders of the state's universities on Thursday outlined areas of agreement in a recent proposal as well as a number of issues in need of further analysis.
``This is an ongoing discussion,'' said Ed Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University. ``Nothing is final.''
Echoed regent Ken Havner, a member of the Governor's Task force on Higher Education Structure for Excellence: ``It's like coming in for Thanksgiving dinner at 10:30 in the morning. You can smell the dinner, but you don't know what it's going to be like yet.''
At their monthly meeting, regents pored over a proposal presented to the governor's task force last month by the 26 chief executive officers of the state's universities and community colleges.
The proposal spells out 12 potential powers and duties that could be assigned to a new coordinating body, as well as how those powers would affect regents schools, community colleges and vo-tech schools.
Havner said the main differences in the recent proposal are that the Board of Regents would stay intact and that funding issues were not addressed.
Regents chair Bill Docking said he noticed several areas of consensus, including on affiliations and mergers, off-campus programs and the need for a method of dispute resolution. Areas of discord include whether a coordinating agency should be involved in reviewing budgets for the various institutions.
A fundamental question at hand Thursday was whether a new state entity should be created or a framework established for a combination of existing entities -- namely the Board of Regents and the community college board of trustees.
Under one plan being considered, two community college board members, two regents and three legislators would be appointed to an umbrella commission that would oversee the state's higher education functions.
Regent Murray Lull said such an arrangement could hamper the ability of the regents to campaign at the state level for funding increases, including faculty salaries and other operating expenses.
In offering several areas where coordination among institutions would be beneficial, Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway wanted to remind regents of the impact of the various branches of education.
Regents and community colleges represent 94 percent of the student body and total credit hours in the state. About 4 percent go to Washburn University, and 2 percent attend the individual technical schools.
Hemenway suggested coordination could streamline state financial assistance, mergers and alliances, the creation of a student information database and the articulation of transfer credits ... ``so long as it doesn't interfere with the successful governance system.''
Following two or three more weeks of discussion, the board will present its formal position to the task force Nov. 5 in Topeka.
``I think we should view this as historic,'' said Jon Wefald, Kansas State University president and governor's task force member, adding that progress is being made on a 25-year-old dilemma.
-- Matt Gowen's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail address is email@example.com.